Software Answers Contextual/Behavioral Debate: Why Not Both

In an attempt to give marketers ever-more personalized ads, the software developer Adrelief has said it has developed a product that combines contextual advertising with elements of behavioral targeting.

Here's how it might work. Imagine that a consumer who frequently visits diet-and-fitness sites goes instead to a stress management site. A typical behavioral marketing program might classify that consumer as a diet-and-fitness enthusiast and serve him a diet-related ad. A typical contextual marketing program might instead serve that consumer an ad for a product related to stress management simply because he's on a stess-related site.

Adrelief, known as a contextual advertising firm, says it can combine elements of both behavioral and contextual marketing by serving an ad such as: "Our workout and diet programs will help relieve your stress."

To Rasheed Wiggins, Adrelief CEO and founder, the concept is ideal. "Advertisers can get 100 percent reach and 100 percent targeting," he boasted. A common criticism of conventional behavioral targeting and contextual targeting is that such methods limit their reach by sending ads to too few consumers.

But not everyone thinks the program currently is viable. One industry analyst said Adrelief has "a valid, smart premise," but the industry isn't ready for it. He said that text can easily be changed in paid listings--but rich media banners, for example, cannot, without an added creative cost.

From an ad-serving perspective, said the analyst, display media is more fragmented than search, which essentially centers around Google and Yahoo!, so the problem will be offering advertisers sufficient scale to make it pay off, as online advertising campaign sizes are small relative to other media. The product also requires a lot of copy, depending on how granular marketers want to get.

But Wiggins said the program was ready-to-go. He said that the Adrelief creative team could create and manage the copy, and that clients could have as much or as little involvement as they wished.

He also said that Adrelief works independent of the media buy, without affecting the technology format, delivery system, or management/reporting tools. Instead, he said, it acts as a targeting add-on.

Wiggins believes Adrelief will generally appeal to large, national brand advertisers and their agencies. So far, he said, the company is in advanced talks with one ad serving company to have Adrelief software permanently implemented in the ad serving network's offerings. He also said the company is primarily targeting individual advertisers and agencies, but added that Adrelief is making a significant push to develop relationships with publishers and publisher-side ad networks to sell the solution as part of their product offerings.

Adrelief's current contextual marketing advertisers come from the online dating, retail, and travel categories. It most recently ran a direct response campaign for Giant-Head, the advertising agency for Playtex.

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